To the End of the Earth: Robert Falcon Scott


By: Nathan Chandler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Robert Falcon Scott had a movie star name and a thirst for adventure, but no ordinary adventure would do. In a time when major expeditions were all the rage, he opted to take on one of the biggest challenges of all. How much do you know about Scott and his journeys?

Robert Falcon Scott is best known for his adventures in which area?

Scott was a British explorer determined to be the first to the South Pole. He led two major expeditions to the frozen continent.


Robert took up adventure when expeditions were a huge fad. He was born in which period of history?

Scott was born in 1868, the era just after the American Civil War. His parents called him "Con," a reference to his middle name, Falcon.


Scott was the youngest of eight kids. What was his personality like?

As a boy and student, Robert was on the withdrawn side and he spent much of his time daydreaming. He settled on having adventures even from an early age.


Scott's family had strong ties to military service. How old was the young man when he joined the navy?

He was barely out of childhood when he joined the navy at just 13. The boy's enthusiasm for learning life at sea was immediately evident.


Robert was 32 years old when he was placed in charge of an expedition to Antarctica. What was the name of this expedition?

The trip was named the Discovery Expedition, which employed the use of a large ship, aptly named Discovery.


The Discovery Expedition's primary mission was to be the first to reach the South Pole.

The expedition's mission was to explore Antarctica and make scientific observations. It launched in August 1901.


The ship left England in August 1901. How long did it take the crew to reach Antarctica?

In 1901, the trip from England to Antarctica was an adventure in and of itself. It took the men six months just to reach the frozen, wind-scoured continent.


The ship stopped in Cape Town, South Africa on its way to Antarctica. What did the men of the expedition do as soon as the ship anchored?

The Discovery was a heavy, slow ship. The journey was so endless that the men were bored and restless, so when they had the opportunity, they rushed to shore to get completely drunk. Scott was reportedly ashamed of their behavior.


Scott's expedition had many brave men, including which soon-to-be-famous person?

The Discovery Expedition featured about 50 capable men, but one of them was particularly notable. Ernest Shackleton would later lead his own expeditions to the area.


The Discovery Expedition made it closer to the South Pole than any expedition before it.

Scott's planning and persistence paid off. The men got closer to the pole than anyone before them -- but they were still more than 500 miles away from that heady goal.


What is "sastrugi"?

Sastrugi refers to wave-like snow formations caused by high winds. Deep snow, jagged ice and sastrugi made crossing Antarctica a laborious (and hazardous) task.


The men used sled dogs during this expedition. How did Scott treat the canines?

Scott loved the dogs. So when it came time to kill sick or slow dogs to feed the others, he couldn't bear to do it himself.


In 1910, Scott launched a new expedition, this time with the goal of reaching the South Pole. What was the expedition called?

The 1910 dash to the South Pole was named the Terra Nova ("new land") Expedition. The journey wasn't so much a trip as it was a race to beat other adventurers to the pole.


The British expedition wasn't the only one racing to be the first to the South Pole. Scott was competing primarily with a crew from which country?

A quiet but capable Norwegian named Roald Amundsen was secretly making plans to win the race to the pole. Amundsen eventually got a head start, but Scott and company were hot on his heels.


Robert put out a call for qualified men to take part in the expedition. How many people responded to his advertisement?

The early 20th century was a golden age of exploration and everyone wanted to be a part of it. More than 8,000 men clamored for a spot on the crew.


Scott decided to rely on which animals for much of the Terra Nova expedition?

Scott ordered one man to buy Siberian ponies, which would help the men cross the ice to the South Pole. The ponies were of low quality and wound up hindering the operation in exasperating ways.


How did Scott get most of the money to fund the expedition?

Scott earned some money by giving speeches about his first expedition. In the end, a government grant made up the bulk of the cash needed to buy a ship for the adventure.


Robert married a woman named Kathleen in 1908. How did she feel about him returning to the South Pole?

Kathleen was all-in for the second expedition. She wanted her new husband to be the first to reach the pole.


What newfangled device did Scott bring with him on the Terra Nova Expedition?

One of Robert's men built numerous motorized sleds meant to ease the labor of traveling over the ice. The unreliable sleds promptly broke down at the beginning of the journey.


What happened to the biggest motorized sled as it was initially being unloaded from the ship?

As the men were unloading the critical motorized sled, it actually broke through the ice and sank into the deep sea waters. It was a very bad way to begin the expedition.


Weather in Antarctica is notoriously fickle. How did the men of this particular expedition fare with regard to the weather?

Scott and his men had zero luck with the weather. They encountered multiple blizzards that at times completely halted their progress.


Once Scott and his men left the ship, how far did they have to travel over the ice to reach the South Pole?

Scott and his small band of men had to travel 800 grueling miles -- one way -- as they attempted to reach the pole. If they managed it they would, of course, have to travel all the way back to their ship to reach safety.


The expedition proceeded south towards the pole with plenty of support staff. Scott sent waves of men back to base camp, until how many remained to attack the final miles to the pole?

Just five men, including Scott, pushed forwards on the last stretch to the pole. The men pushed as quickly as they could, rushing to beat their Norwegian competitors to the prize.


What did Scott and his men find when they reached the South Pole?

The men found evidence that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had won the race to the pole by about a month. The men were emotionally crushed, and they still had to make the 800-mile journey back to base camp.


The South Pole was completely barren. How did Scott know that the Norwegians had already beaten them to the pole?

The Norwegians left behind a camp, dog sled and even a flag. There was no doubt whatsoever that the British had come in second in the epic race.


As Scott and his men struggled to make it back to their ship, temperatures plunged to what extreme?

As if the wind and snow blindness wasn’t bad enough, the weather was ridiculously cold. The men traveled in temperatures that dove to -47 degrees Fahrenheit.


On the return journey, one of the men died. How did Lawrence Oates meet his end?

Oates was exhausted and he knew that he was holding back the others. He told his friends that he was leaving the tent to go for a walk. He never returned.


How did Scott and the rest of his men perish?

The men, exhausted by their seemingly endless ordeal, finally stopped for good. They faded out of this life and froze on the ice.


How did Scott's men at base camp essentially kill their leader?

Before setting out across the ice, Scott told the men at base camp to send out a relief team to meet them -- that way, he and the four men who made it to the pole would help on the return leg of the trip. The men at base camp disobeyed the order, an act that ultimately killed Scott and the other men.


Scott knew he and his men were going to die. How did he write about the end of his life in his diary?

Ever the stout explorer, Scott wrote his goodbyes and said that he thought the adventure was ultimately a success because they'd reached the pole. The bodies were found by a later expedition.


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